Settle in, I’m about to get pretty long-winded about one of my favorite topics: skin care.
Sun care is the most important step in any skin care routine, period. If your daily routine doesn’t include a good sunscreen, none of your other products really matter.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
First, let’s talk sun rays: short wave UVB rays affect the surface of the skin and cause sunburn, and long wave UVA rays go deep into the skin and cause wrinkles, brown spots and discoloration. Broad-spectrum protection is your best defense against skin damage, certain types of skin cancer, and premature aging.
There are two types of sunscreen, physical (or mineral) and chemical. Chemical sunscreens have active ingredients that absorb UV radiation and prevent it from penetrating the skin. Physical sunscreens use natural minerals — zinc oxide and titanium dioxide — that physically “block” the sun’s rays by reflecting and scattering them away from the surface of the skin.
I usually prefer physical sunscreens for my face, neck and chest; they’re gentler on sensitive skin than their chemical counterparts, and work within a few minutes of application. Don’t be discouraged by the white cast they leave on the skin; in good formulas, it usually fades as the product absorbs, and you can cover any remaining traces with makeup. (People complain about flashback in flash photography with physical sunscreens, but I’m not snapped by paparazzi in my day-to-day, so I don’t really care about that.)
Speaking of makeup: if your foundation or tinted moisturizer contains an SPF, it’s not enough. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, you need at least a nickel-sized dollop of sunscreen on your face alone for adequate protection. Unless you’re slathering that much foundation on your skin — in which case, you’re probably doing it wrong — you need to lay down a good base of SPF first.
Side note: applying multiple SPF-containing products won’t “add up” to more coverage; you’ll only get as much protection as the highest-rated SPF. For example: if you start with an SPF 40 sunscreen as a base, then put a foundation with SPF 15 on top of it, you have an overall SPF 40 protection. Make sense?
I think of SPF as a step in my morning skincare routine, so I’m willing to splurge on a quality sunscreen that can pull double-duty as my daytime moisturizer and offer some added skin care benefits. I look for formulas with an SPF between 30 and 50 for my face — I find anything lower isn’t enough protection, and anything higher irritates my skin — with a good blend of antioxidants for added protection against free-radical damage. Since I wear a pretty thick layer under my foundation every day (remember, nickel-sized dollop!) I like formulas that are hydrating but not greasy, that absorb well into my skin, and that don’t make my makeup slide off my face by lunchtime.
If you find that the extra layer of SPF lotion makes your face too greasy for makeup, try out these tips: 1) make sure to give the sunscreen at least 10-15 minutes to absorb into the skin before you start your makeup routine, 2) apply a good primer between your sunscreen and foundation, or 3) apply a thin layer of a finely-milled powder over the sunscreen before you apply your foundation (check out Wayne Goss’ video for details on this awesome makeup hack).
Now let’s talk about my faves!
For the face ::
Tarte Tarteguard 30 – This light fluid lotion absorbs quickly, dries to a demi-matte finish, and leaves a subtle sheen that makes your skin look luminous and healthy without a white cast. It’s packed with beneficial antioxidants and skin soothing and repairing ingredients, all of which are protected in an opaque rubberized bottle with a hygienic pump. With daily use of several pumps per day, a bottle lasted me about 3 months. (Time to restock!)
COOLA Unscented Matte Tint Natural BB Cream SPF 30 – This wears so well under makeup and has a subtle “universal” tint (ideal for light to medium skin tones) that makes it almost undetectable on clean skin. It contains plant extracts and oils with anti-inflammatory and emollient benefits, and has a silicone-like slip that feels like a primer, so it also helps create a smooth canvas for your foundation. If you have oily skin, this is a great choice.
Clinique Super City Block SPF 40 – This was my favorite when I was younger with oilier skin; it’s an oil-free formula that includes a variety of antioxidants like chestnut rose extract, matricaria extract, cucumber extract, gentian root extract, and vitamins C and E. It’s slightly tinted to cover any white cast and blends into the skin beautifully, and can be worn alone for a super sheer coverage or under makeup.
bareMinerals 5-in-1 ‘BB’ Advanced Performance Cream Eyeshadow – Don’t forget about the delicate skin around your eyes! I put my sunscreen all the way up to my lower lash line every day (another reason non-irritating physical formulas are great) and use this cream shadow with SPF 15 all over my eyelids. It has great pigmentation and lasts all day without creasing. It’s perfect on its own, or as a base for other powder shadows. I have it in four shades and use it every day (even on ‘no-makeup’ days, just for the SPF).
Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Defense SPF 30 – I bought this on Wayne Goss’ recommendation, and it has a five-star rating on Beautypedia. The completely fragrance-free formula is packed with potent antioxidants and plant oils including coconut, jojoba, and marula. It’s the thickest of the bunch with the most white cast, but it packs the most skincare benefits. This can be a little too heavy under makeup if I’m going to spend too much time in this summer heat — I literally sweated off my makeup during a grueling flower delivery/setup a few weeks ago — but I think it will be perfect when our swampy summer is done.
For the body ::
La Roche Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk – This unscented sunscreen is perfect for every day wear. It’s lightweight and absorbs well into the skin for hydrating broad-spectrum protection that won’t make you smell like you’re headed to the beach.
Sun Bum SPF 30 Moisturizing Lotion – This does smell like a beach day, which is why it’s a favorite for us when we’re out and about on the weekends. It absorbs well and doesn’t get thick or cakey with reapplication, and offers broad-spectrum protection with vitamin E. Sun Bum Sunscreens are tested, approved, and recommended by The Skin Cancer Foundation, and you can sometimes find them in BOGO sales at Ulta.
COOLA Sport Spray SPF 50 Unscented – I usually prefer sunscreen lotions for evenly-applied reliable coverage, but sometimes you just need something quick and easy, so we keep this natural spray on hand for back-up. It protects and nourishes the skin with organic ingredients like cucumber, algae and strawberry extracts, as well as red raspberry seed oil, a natural sunscreen and anti-inflammatory rich in omega-3 and 6. It dries quickly with no greasy residue, and has no fragrance (although, if you’re into fragrance, their scented options are nice). I like to use this to “top up” my lotion SPF throughout the day when we’re out in the sun.